South Shields FC hope for pitch-perfect day in biggest game for a generation

Vice-chairman Gary Crutwell.
Vice-chairman Gary Crutwell.
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South Shields Football Club are hoping for a pitch-perfect occasion tomorrow –the biggest day in the Mariners’ recent history.

Shields are potentially 90 minutes away from a first-ever trip to Wembley.

From left vice-chairman Gary Crutwell and commercial manager Colin Docherty

From left vice-chairman Gary Crutwell and commercial manager Colin Docherty

They are taking on Coleshill Town, from Warwickshire, in the second leg of the FA Vase semi-final.

Having won the first leg 2-1, the Mariners need to merely avoid defeat tomorrow to book a place in May’s final.

As recently as last season, Shields had huge problems with their pitch, with a number of games having to be called off.

However, following heavy investment into drainage last summer, the Mariners Park pitch is recognised as one of the best in the Northern League – and is ready to host such a huge game.

A trip to Wembley would be a dream come true for any Shields supporter

Gary Crutwell

Vice-chairman, Gary Crutwell Mr Crutwell added: “I had almost 10 years of toil with this pitch before the new drainage was installed last summer.

“Those problems have been all but alleviated thanks to the investment, and tomorrow’s game should hopefully be played on an excellent playing surface suitable for any level of football.”

A Wembley trip would cap a remarkable two-year turnaround for the club.

Shields played home games in Peterlee between 2013 and 2015 after their lease on Mariners Park – then known as Filtrona Park – expired.

They returned under the ownership of Geoff Thompson, and have not looked back since, with the team on course for a second successive promotion and crowds regularly topping 1,000.

Tomorrow, up to 3,500 are expected to pack into Mariners Park, smashing the ground record, with tickets having sold out.

Mr Crutwell was chairman of the club between 2008 and 2015, and ensured it survived despite paltry crowds during the dark Peterlee days.

This week, as site manager at Mariners Park, he has prepared the pitch for the biggest game seen by a generation of Shields fans.

Mr Crutwell said: “The way the club has thrived since Geoff came on board has been absolutely incredible. The club has been given a massive new lease of life and the way the public has responded to Geoff’s vision and investment has been amazing.

“A trip to Wembley would be a dream come true for any Shields supporter, and would make those years of toil for those of us who were on the committee during those very difficult times even more worthwhile.”